Text message leads to call from police

First Selectman Tim Herbst said a political rival overreacted to a text message mistakenly sent to him.
First Selectman Tim Herbst said a political rival overreacted to a text message mistakenly sent to him.

A 15-year political rivalry escalated to police involvement and claims of gun threats this week after First Selectman Tim Herbst sent a text message containing a video clip featuring Clint Eastwood in his iconic “Dirty Harry” role.

“The State Capitol Police called me at 10:30 at night, waking me up,” Herbst said. “I actually think they were embarrassed about having to call me. I’m sure they all had a good laugh at my expense.”

Herbst, who formed the Political Action Committee TimPAC earlier this year, is working to try to elect Republicans to state office. One of the seats Herbst has targeted is currently held by Enfield Democrat David Alexander. The two have known each other since they ran against each other for student body president at Trinity College.

Alexander went to the police to file a complaint after receiving a text message from Herbst of a clip of Eastwood from the movie Sudden Impact. In the scene Eastwood brandishes a .44 magnum, while urging a suspect to “Go ahead, make my day.”

Herbst said the message was part of an ongoing text exchange with another Trinity alum, but Alexander considered the message to be a threat.

In a video posted on the Hartford Courant website, Alexander repeatedly noted his military background and said guns are not something to be taken lightly.

“As a Marine Corps officer, I think what he did crossed the line,” Alexander said. “That’s not something you joke about. My friends in the Marine Corps would not have sent that type of message.”

Gun violence is not a laughing matter, Alexander said.

“As somebody that was an officer in the Marine Corps, that learned how to deploy crew-served weapons, that’s not a joking matter where I come from,” he said.

Capitol police told Alexander he had acted appropriately and told Herbst not to contact him anymore, Alexander told the Courant.

Herbst fired back at Alexander, figuratively, saying the response and police report was an overreaction by a politician desperate to hold onto his seat.

“He’s facing a strong challenge by a popular opponent, and he’s feeling the heat,” Herbst said.

Alexander was recently charged with drunk driving for a second time, a fact that has further eroded his popularity even among Democrats, Herbst said.

Herbst denied the message carried any threat, and suggested he had more to fear from Alexander than Alexander did from him.

“He’s the one that’s a threat, to everyone, every time he gets behind the wheel of a car,” Herbst said.

Herbst, in a series of interviews with the Trumbull Times, Courant and WPLR radio, among other media outlets, repeated references to Alexander’s DUIs, pointing out that he sent the text in question shortly after 7 a.m., and Alexander waited until nearly 10 p.m., “probably after he’d had a few,” to file the report.

Herbst suggested the 14-hour delay gave the Democrats time to tailor the incident as part of the broader narrative that Herbst tends to engage in nasty social media exchanges.

“I’m a Millennial. This is how we communicate, with texts and social media,” Herbst said. “The thing with texts is that you have no idea how someone meant something. You can’t read their tone or inflection to take a cue on whether someone is serious or joking, so they took advantage of the opportunity to blow this completely out of proportion for political purposes.”